Cash for an NHS dental 'blitz' has been described as a "drop in the ocean" and is "unlikely" to make a huge difference, campaigners have said.

It was announced that £50million of NHS England funding will help to secure thousands of additional dental appointments, with £5.7million allocated for the East of England.

The funding for NHS dental provision is to help tackle the access to treatment crisis, but it is unclear how many Suffolk dentists are taking on these evening and weekend appointments.

These appointments would be available from February 1 for eight weeks to the end of March.

Children, people with learning disabilities, autism or severe mental health problems will be prioritised.

Mark Jones, spokesman for the Toothless in England campaign group, which started in Suffolk, said: "This extra funding, welcome though it is, is a mere drop in the ocean and won’t fix the dental crisis.

"As far as we at Toothless in England are concerned, it won’t put an end to people pulling out their own teeth, all because they can’t find a dentist.

"It won’t put an end to dental charities meant to help the needs of developing countries from helping meet the emergency needs in our own communities either."

Health bosses said that while the funding level for practices makes it an attractive proposition, it may only be larger surgeries with more staff that have the flexibility to offer those bookings.

Mr Jones said at a lot of surgeries staff were already overworked and overstretched and did not have enough dental practitioners to deliver treatment, let alone cover evenings and weekends.

He added: "The situation is so acute in this region it's unlikely to make a massive impact."

A spokesperson for NHS England in the East of England said they would not have a clearer picture on uptake in Suffolk for a while.

They added: "We will work with current NHS dental providers to allocate these funds so more patients can be seen and treated across additional appointments during evenings and weekends.

"This investment will help address the most pressing issues around patient access where timely intervention for the relief of oral pain, disease and infection is vital to prevent and reduce future complications, including urgent care and subsequent stabilisation of oral health.”

They said the funding could potentially be used for both existing and new NHS dental patients.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said it could not be confident the full £50million allocation could be used by the April 1 deadline.

Steve Marsling, from Toothless in Suffolk, said: "We very much agree with the BDA on this. You cannot create a proper dental service by creating a time-limited cash payment.

"It won't make up for over ten years of neglect. Are those areas like Leiston going to have a new dentist under this scheme?"

The Dentaid charity is coming to Leiston on Wednesday and Bury St Edmunds the following day to help "bridge the gap" in NHS dental provision for those in severe need.

A range of factors are said to be behind the NHS dental crisis, including how the NHS dental contracts work, recruitment problems and underfunding, plus further pressures caused by the pandemic.

Previously, a government spokesperson said: "Work is underway on dental contract reform. We are working with partners, including the British Dental Association, to look at alternative ways of commissioning services and making the NHS a more attractive place to work for dentists."